Not since Hall of Famers Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales were in the midst of their legendary trilogy have there been elite fighters who have disliked each other as much as Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez now feel toward each other.
Golovkin’s public disdain for Alvarez is remarkable given that for most of his career, he was viewed as an easy-going guy with little to say.
Golovkin’s antipathy toward Alvarez, whom he’ll fight in an HBO Pay-Per-View rematch on Sept. 15 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the WBA-WBC middleweight world title, stems in large part from Alvarez’s two failed drug tests in February that scuttled their planned May 5 bout.
It goes deeper than that, though, and shows a man wounded by the belief he was treated poorly during contract negotiations.
“Was I upset that Canelo failed two drug tests? Yes,” Golovkin said Sunday at a rare public workout in Los Angeles. “But I was more upset at Canelo’s team. The excuses they gave, their attitude, and Canelo’s reaction, it showed that they have no respect for the sport or the fans. They showed their real faces. They are fakes. I do not feel anger toward him because the rematch was canceled the first time. But I did lose all respect for him. Canelo is not the biggest name in boxing, just the biggest scandal.”
Golovkin held the title, but Alvarez was the bigger name when they first met in 2017. Golovkin had campaigned publicly for a fight with Alvarez for several years, but Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions made him wait until they felt the time was appropriate.
Golovkin was angered during the first set of negotiations for the 2017 fight, which resulted in a hotly contested split draw, but he agreed to make significant concessions in order to get the fight.
He made further concessions for the rematch on May 5, but that was killed when Alvarez withdrew in the face of a penalty by the Nevada Athletic Commission for the anti-doping test failures. He tested positive for Clenbuterol, then blamed tainted meat, which is more prevalent in Mexico and China than anywhere else in the world. Golovkin believed, and still believes, that Alvarez’s use of the performance-enhancing drug was knowing and intentional.
That is the root of the disdain Golovkin has for his challenger, but it also bubbled all the other hurt feelings to the surface. This is an elite athlete who won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics and has been one of boxing’s greatest champions for several years. He’s not used to being treated as a disposable B side and resents that he wasn’t treated as Alvarez’s equal.
It’s created a tension between them that promoters are hoping to use to sell the fight. The first bout was a good one, though hardly great, and it fell far short of the lofty expectations it had. Golovkin and trainer Abel Sanchez have taken shots at Alvarez for what they call running. Alvarez and his coaches, Chepo and Eddy Reynoso, have responded by saying they’ve boxed, not run.
“Canelo has always been respectful with all opponents and all teams,” Chepo said. “This time has not been an exception. It’s been Abel who has heated things up with his statements regarding Canelo and that he runs, but a fighter can’t run in the ring. You run on the race track. … We’re relaxed, we know what we have to do, and we haven’t been doing any insults.”
Alvarez has never been one eager to do much media, and he’s largely remained quiet during camp, save for a few public appearances and interviews.
“This fight is personal because of all that’s been said and it will be difficult to regain the respect we once had.” Alvarez said. “The statements that have been made about me have given me more motivation to train harder.”
Golovkin doesn’t do an interview, though, in which he doesn’t land a broadside on Alvarez, his trainers or his promoter.
True to form, he was harsh in his critique of Alvarez and clearly annoyed by the events of the last 15 months.
“Canelo, he is not a champion,” Golovkin said. “He is a liar who has no respect for the sport of boxing or its fans. I want to stay world champion and bring all my belts home. … In the last fight, I did not feel any real power from Canelo, just slaps. He is not the hardest puncher I have fought, but he is fast and quick. He is the most skilled fighter I have fought. He is a very good fighter.
“I am happy to get at Canelo again. It is another big chance to beat him again. Of course, I want to knock out Canelo. It would be nice if Canelo came to fight this time. I don’t believe what he says about how he will fight me this time. He said the same thing before our first fight. I will definitely be more aggressive in this fight.”
These are fighters who throughout their careers have been drama-free and controversy-free prior to meeting each other. It is two men used to being at the top of the heap but there is now only room for one. And so, like Barrera and Morales before them, they’ve laid bare their emotions and not tried to hide their disdain.
Whether it leads to a more action-packed bout remains to be seen. Boxing would be that much better were they to mimic Barrera and Morales and settle their differences in the center of the ring. Barrera and Morales put on three of the greatest fights of modern times and their trilogy is one of the best ever.
Hopefully, we’re speaking in similar terms when the alarm clocks go off on Sept. 16.
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